DADDY’S LITTLE GIRL


daddy's little girlBroken promises and sad goodbyes you left me standing all alone with tears in the well of my eyes.
In the blink of an eye, you turned your back and walked away;
often I wonder if I’m the reason you didn’t stay.
Everyday I dream of how perfect my life would be if you were here.
You could be my everlasting shield and protect me from all my fears.
Or whenever I’m down you would hold me in your arms and wipe away my tears.
But deep in my heart I know it will never be;
that you would walk back into my life and never leave me.
Birthdays, Graduations, Prom:
you’ve missed it all.
And it hurts so much because you didn’t even bother to call.
The truth is I need you here in my life.
When I get married, I want you there to give me away to become a wife.
And when I graduate I want to see that look of satisfaction on your face.
I don’t want another man to take your place.
For there’s nothing I want more in this world than to just be daddy’s little girl. – LaKandance Harris

My father officially left us when I was in elementary school. It’s hard to remember exactly when his presence was finally extricated from our house because he would come and go quite a bit after my parents initially split. He and my mother had a deep passion for one another but their destructive behaviors prevented them from capitalizing on their connection in a healthy way. Instead, her narcissism combined with his alcoholism created a volcanic eruption anytime they were around each other. Passion takes many forms and when rage enters into the picture, the glass cracks, the color fades and a beautiful image turns ugly very fast.

Because of my father’s nomadic tendencies and because I watched my parents cycle of love and abuse, I had an overwhelming feeling of impermanence to relationships and love. I did not have any evidence that relationships could endure and, while my parents were sorting through their disorder, I also witnessed as my mother and sister experienced intervals of attachment and derision. My mother used to tell me how we cannot count on anyone but ourselves. Wise beyond my years, I learned pretty quickly that this was her code for “don’t count on me.” And, by extension, I believed I could never trust anyone to stand by me.

By the time I was a teenager, my father (a) had left our house, (b) moved away to Hawaii to live some existence that I never learned much about and then (c) returned in an effort to resurrect his life with my mother. How I might have fit into their equation was always unclear to me. I often felt like an intruder in their life, disrupting their fantasy love affair. As a typical teen, I retreated into myself, too confused to sort it out. I emotionally departed, locking all of my feelings and fears behind iron bars, throwing away the key. Their arrangement and the emotional entanglement with me was simply too difficult for me to process and there was no one standing by to coach me through this complex and troublesome situation. My mother, typically, never bothered to consider how I might be impacted by her decisions. So, one day I came home from school and this man who looked familiar – I could have been looking in the mirror because we looked so much alike – was sitting in the den watching TV. “Your father’s back and he’s going to be staying here for a while.” That was her contrite explanation and hidden in the subtext was “Don’t ask any questions because I am not interested in explaining myself to you.”

Being the youngest of a line of kids, I was the only one relegated to participate in their war games. My brother was long gone from our house, my sister was married and had kids of her own and then there were the two other children that my father had sired with his first wife. They were all grown up and had started their own families. I didn’t know much about them, had never met them, but I had heard about them as I eavesdropped on my mother’s conversations with friends and family members. I knew my father had a granddaughter who was a year older than me and I spent years trying to sort out the relationship she and I might have had. I was her aunt yet she was older than me – it was all so complicated and difficult. My father had a brood and, fortunately for him, I was the only one he had to look at to be reminded of the pain that he had inflicted. My eyes were the only ones he had to avoid daily in order to not see the confusion, sadness and emptiness. The eight others were drowned in tears and, thankfully for him, out of his line of sight.

And so he was there one day and then, as magically as he appeared, he was gone. One day I came home and his imprint was no longer in the couch. His assorted belongings were nowhere to be found. It was as if it was all a dream. This time, however, I did not get the luxury of a one liner from my mother acknowledging his absence. She simply erased him from our reality and acted as if he had never been a visitor in our house. Perhaps he was just a mirage of water in the middle of my emotional desert. I was just beginning to get used to having him around. We had actually starting falling into a little routine – he would drive me to school sometimes and I would see him there when I got home. We never really talked much in the car rides or in the house but I began take some comfort in simply knowing he was there. I began to embrace the idea that I, like so many of my friends, actually had a father. I smiled sometimes on the inside because I felt normal. It didn’t matter that my parents had long since divorced and that my mother was constantly parading men through my life because she could not bear to be alone. It did not matter that I grew up far too fast having to worry about how my mother was going to make ends meet and, in fact, searching through the local paper to try to find her a job when I was 10. The husband that my mother married while my father was gone who had a stroke in front of my eyes as I sat at the kitchen table doing homework was now just a faded memory. And my hiding under my mother’s bed calling the neighbors in complete terror after I watched the man’s eyes roll back in his head seemed overshadowed because I had, what seemed to be, my family intact.

Then, just like that, we were back to just two beings living in the house alone. The high energy and enthusiasm that my mother exhibited during the period in which her soul mate had returned was replaced with her angry, depressed demeanor. My father had left and my mother had returned. The house was quiet again because we barely spoke. She found reasons to get angry at me and lash out at me to unleash her feelings. She would leave me nasty notes in the kitchen for when I returned home from school, reminding me what a worthless child I was. She resumed chaining the door at night if I came home past curfew. I would bang my fists against the metal door, desperate to be let back in, to not have to sit on the stoop sobbing in fear that I would never be able to return. Perhaps this was the day she was kicking me to the curb just like she did my sister when she was 14. Of course, I did not understand that my mother could have never released me because I was the target of her abuse. I was the one she needed in order to unleash her pain. She needed me. She really needed me.

As a child I believed that I was the cause of the broken promises and the severed hearts. My behavior or misbehavior, my actions or inactions, my needs or unwillingness to be needy was the cause for the revolving door. Although I considered that perhaps it was not always my fault, in my heart I couldn’t believe anything different. I was flawed and broken and certainly not worthy of being loved consistently and continually. I feared that I was destined to live this reality for eternity.

What sometimes happens when people are emotionally abandoned is that they seek out refuge in all the wrong places. Like sponges, they soak up love wherever they can find it. The holes are so gaping and desperately need to be filled. You lose all ability to make rational and reasonable decisions because you are starving and need to be fed. I never really analyzed myself at the time but, upon reflection later in life, I marveled at the fact that I did not end up in a series of abusive and destructive romantic relationships. Paradoxically, I avoided romance because I was afraid to commit that level of intimacy and, instead, chose to develop artificial intimacy though friendships that never had a strong enough foundation to endure. I was giving everything and getting little in return because I simply needed to believe I was loved. And I continued the cycle over and over again. People came into my life and, when the flame burned down, they were gone. These were not relationships built on meaningful and powerful connections because I did not have the ability to assess, reason or choose. I was a misfit, broken down and tossed aside. I did not get to choose. I took whatever I could get.

And then I met my husband. Suddenly, something shifted. Something was different with him. He looked into my eyes and saw the little broken girl who had lost her way long ago. And, without realizing it, I finally got to choose. I believed at the time that I was chosen but, truthfully I knew. I made the choice. Divine intervention allowed me to have a choice. A really extraordinary, exceptional and heaven-sent choice. And when I made my commitment to spend my life with him, to hopefully correct the wrongs that surrounded my life up to that point, my father was not there. He was done with me. He had left for good.

HEALING


Last night I ran into a bunch of friends at my husband’s restaurant.  It was one of those evenings when my extroverted self was quietly craving for some human interaction but my introverted self did not make much effort to make it happen.  Fortunately, the universe took over and there were lots of familiar faces milling around and I was able to feed my need to be social.

I sat down at a table with a group of close friends and one of them began sharing with me her thoughts and feelings about my blog.  It is always a strange experience to have people tell me (1) they read my blog; (2) they like my blog; (3) they relate to my experience.  Writing is mostly a solitary exercise but putting it out into the ether socializes it and creates the possibility of it smashing right into someone who needs to read your words at the very moment it reaches them.  Knowing that this phenomenon takes place makes me happy and very satisfied because, while the writing is part of my journey, what people get from my writing is absolutely part of their journey.  I sincerely want to help people along their pathways.

My friend said something to me that struck me and really settled into my head.  She referred to my journey that I am sharing as healing.  She is certainly right but I never really think of this as a healing process.  Now, even as I write those words, I recognize how ridiculous they sound.  The wounds of my lifetime need to heal and I need to be able to stop picking at the scabs and let them be.  My friend shared with me many similarities in our experiences and residual behaviors and feelings that she struggles with in her life.  And, she acknowledged how powerful it is to know there is someone else out there who has lived this kind of life and can find some healing.

Healing is a remarkably confusing concept for me to process.  If I heal, then I likely do not feel the pain anymore.  If I heal properly, there might not even be any scars to remind me of the wounds.  Is that actually a possibility in my life? I’ve never actually imagined a reality that would allow me to live in a “healed” way that I would not continually struggle to fight my demons.

By definition, to heal is to make healthy, whole, or to finally to free from evil, cleanse or purify.  All of those meanings resonate because they reflect the underlying goals in my life.  I would like to be emotionally healthy to the point that I am not facing down the burdens of my past on a regular basis.  I’d like to cleanse my soul and rid myself of the years of impurities that have tainted my life.  But, is that really possible?

As a child of my parents, both of which struggled with their own demons and needed to be healed, I grew up without a compass.  I never had a north.  I never had a sense of where to go, who to be, how to behave. The only truth that was crystal clear was that I did not want to be living the life I was in.  I could have become an alcoholic – it ran in my family.  I could have recklessly experimented with drugs.  I could have engaged in a series of abusive and destructive relationships.  I could have commit suicide to get away from the pain. I never did any of those things.  Instead, I got an education, carved out a career for myself, fell in love, started a family and somewhat consciously (but also unknowingly) set out to change my course.  Without a map, without a compass, without a north to guide me.  Unwittingly, I had no other options because I knew, every single day of my life, that I had to move far away from a world of abuse that diminished me, tortured me and made me feel like I was not worthy of anything.  What I never believed was that I would ever wake up one day and feel peaceful and cleansed.  That has never been a possibility or a seeming reality.  I presumed that I would trudge through, make this life for myself but forever live with a black spot inside me where I kept the remnants of all the tragedies of my life.

I know that my friend did not intend this but she unlocked a new possibility for me.  By mere suggestion she provoked me to action in a way that I never anticipated.  It is what I love about the human experience.  No matter how dark the days, how bleak the horizon might look, there is the extraordinary opportunity that one person will sit next to you and say or do something that will make you feel differently, see things differently, behave differently.  They will move you and it will inspire you or change you.  I feel it is my journey to do that for others but I am always surprised when others do it for me.  It is priceless, it is precious, it is powerful and it is needed and welcomed.

The other day another friend said I have an amazing ability to move others to action.  That was an extremely flattering comment that really touched me because, to be able to do that is a very special privilege.  One that I try to manage carefully because if you are moving people to action, you better be moving them towards positive action.  It makes me feel special and it makes me feel like I am doing something right in my life.  If my blog is touching the hearts of people and moving them to take positive actions in their lives, then mission accomplished.  But, I want my friend who last night touched me with one simple word to know that we all have that power and she just paid it forward.  Thanks.